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Driving around
Driving around
What a view!
A bungalow on the way

Efate Drive

Thursday, July 18, 2002
David takes a drive around Vanuatu's Efate Island, stopping off for food, some souvenirs and of course, to check out the view.

Vanuatu is the result of volcanic movement during the Pliocene age, between two and five million years ago. It remained free of human occupation until around 500 BC when it was settled by a people of the Lapita culture.

Captain Cook visited in 1774, and with ensuing European settlement came whalers, sandalwood cutters and missionaries.

Efate is the main island and it holds the capital, Port Vila, on a natural harbour with views of Iririki and Ifira Islands. Port Vila is where the majority of commerce and tourism takes place and in 1970 was established as a tax haven. As many as 40,000 people live on Efate, with more than half living in the capital. The others live in small villages along the coast. There are no villages inland.

The best way to see a place like Efate is to drive yourself. It takes around four to five hours, depending on how many villages you visit. If there has been rain, it would take longer, as not all roads are sealed.

Starting at Port Vila, you pass the golf club and there is a dirt road leading to the Kaweriki Village and black sand beach where US marines practiced landing techniques during WWII. Mele village is where you find Mele Beach, which has the island's best snorkelling, before heading to Klem's Hill, 200m above sea level. There are wonderful views from this high point.

Lelepa Landing is quite sleepy — you may see some road stalls, but chances are they won't be open. There are great views to Havannah Harbour though.

Samoa Point on the north-west corner is named after the Polynesian missionaries who taught there in the 1840s. It has a sandy beach, good for swimming and snorkelling.

Ulei has stalls selling bits and pieces from WWII and craft made from clam shells. It is on Havannah Harbour, which was the island's main European settlement until drought, the fall in cotton prices and malaria sent them to Port Vila in the 1880s.

There is a concrete reservoir there known as the American Pool which served as a water source for visiting warships. There is also a jetty and wing of a sunken US seaplane just five metres below the surface.

On the drive to Siviri you will pass coconut plantations and have excellent views of Undine Bay and the small islands of Pele, Nguna and Emau.

Paongisu is a seaside village where you will find a very good restaurant called Nagar which offers a varied menu and views across the water.

At Quoin Hill is a US wartime fighter strip that is used today by light aircraft.

Baofatu has two US WWII fighter planes still lying in shallow waters, and at Takara there are hot springs. On the drive to Sara you will see Emao Island, an extinct volcano. Epao, the next village, sells local fruits and vegetables, and has some of the island's best scenery. There are beaches fringed with she-oaks, overgrown coconut plantations, dense bush and enormous overhanging banyan trees.

Forari and Manuro Point don't really warrant a stop but just before Eton there is a pretty little waterfall and just before the village is a small white sandy beach surrounded by coral rocks. South of the village is the Eton Blue Hole, and you need permission to swim in its deep blue waters.

When you leave Eton you will notice less coconut trees and see cattle grazing.

The Bluewater Resort has a natural aquarium with dugongs, sharks and turtles. There is a small entry fee.

As you go past the White Sands 18 hole Country Club you come to the Tamanu Beach Club. It accommodates couples only and is very secluded. Its six cottages are set in hectares of tropical gardens right on the beach. It is a place of white sand and crystal clear water for as far as the eye can see.

Its three plantation cottages are built in the French Colonial style with shuttered windows and verandahs facing the sea. The bathrooms of the six cottages are inside-outside with a coral wall to give privacy.

The restaurant is French in style and it is open to all-comers at lunchtime, but is for guests only in the evenings. Sunset is very special and most nights there is a bonfire on the beach.

As you arrive at Erakor Lagoon you've just about done the full circle back to Port Vila. There is a free boat ride to Erakor Island with yet more beautiful clear blue water, just right for swimming and snorkelling.

Overlooking Erakor Lagoon is Mangoes Resort. This small, adults-only resort has just 20 bungalows with balcony, enormous bathroom, queen beds, bar fridge, in-house movies and beautiful leather and coconut timber lounges.

All have views of garden, lagoon or one of the two pools. Mangoes restaurant serves delicious food, specialising in coconut crab, lobster and prime local beef. They have an excellent wine selection and will pack a picnic basket if you fancy a day away from the property.

Location

Efate in Vanuatu

Cost

Tamanu Beach Club Planters' Cottages start at about $80 per person a night. Breakfast is included.
Avis Vanuatu car hire starts at around $130 a day.
Qantas flies to Port Vila five times a week from Sydney and three times a week from Brisbane on codeshare services operated by Air Vanuatu. Return economy airfares to Port Vila start at $817 from Sydney; $968 from Melbourne; $703 from Brisbane; $1184 from Adelaide; $1419 from Perth and $1392 from Darwin, per person. Prices include charges and taxes. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply. Available until March 31, 2003.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Tamanu Beach Club
Box 777 Port Vila Vanuatu
Ph: 0011 678 27279, Fax: 678 24470
www.tamanubeachclub.com
Mangoes Resort
Box 862 Port Vila Vanuatu
Ph/Fax: 0011 678 24923
www.mangoes.com.vu
mangoes@vanuatu.com.vu
Avis Vanuatu
Box 1297 Port Vila Vanuatu
Ph: 0011 678 25457, Fax: 678 24968
avis@vanuatu.com.vu

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